The lunar rock was fed to cockroaches in an experiment to see if it contained any pathogens that presented a hazard to terrestrial life, and the space agency has urged Boston-based RR Auction to stop selling the moon dust that was obtained during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission.
In a letter to the auctioneer, a NASA lawyer claimed that the material still belonged to the federal government. The experiment’s materials, which included a vial containing roughly 40 milligrammes of lunar dust and three cockroach carcasses, were supposed to fetch at least $400,000 at auction but have since been removed, according to RR on Thursday.
According to a letter from NASA dated June 15, no person, university, or other organisation has ever been granted authority to preserve Apollo samples after examination, destruction, or other usage for any purpose, notably for sale or private exhibition. The letter continued, “We are demanding that you cease immediately from facilitating the sale of any and all products containing the Apollo 11 Lunar Soil Experiment (the cockroaches, slides, and post-destructive testing samples).
“In another letter dated June 22, NASA’s legal counsel requested that RR Auction cooperate with the material’s current owner to return it to the federal government”. More than 47 pounds (21.3 kilos) of lunar rock were returned to Earth during the Apollo 11 mission. To see if it would kill them, some were fed to fish, insects, and other small animals.
Entomologist Marion Brooks dissected and studied the moondust-fed cockroaches after they were delivered to the University of Minnesota. For a piece in October 1969, Brooks, who passed away in 2007, told the Minneapolis Tribune, “I found no evidence of infectious organisms.” According to the paper, she didn’t discover any proof that the lunar material was harmful or had any other negative impacts on the insects.
However, Brooks kept the moon rock and the cockroaches instead of giving them back to NASA. They were sold by her daughter in 2010, and a consignor who RR withheld their identity is now offering them for sale once more. According to Mark Zaid, an attorney with RR Auction, it is common for a third party to assert their ownership of something that is up for auction.Zaid stated that although they have been inconsistent, “NASA has a track record of investigating topics linked to the early space projects.” According to NASA’s own admission, it was unaware of the earlier cockroach experiment item auction when it wrote one of its letters. According to Zaid, we have already collaborated with NASA, and we always assist the American government when it makes claims to property. We aim to behave appropriately and legally at all times.
RR Auction is currently hanging onto the property, but ultimately, the consignor will have to negotiate a deal with NASA, according to him.